Suarez misses chance to move on
At Old Trafford
The romantics hoped Luis Suarez would end it with a handshake. The flaw in this theory is that, at least between Manchester United and Liverpool, the age of romance is long since dead.
In truth not much romance exists anyway, and certainly less since Liverpool's striker received an eight-game ban after the FA found him guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra at Anfield in October.
But the fervent hope of most observers was that the pair could at least limit further damage from the saga by observing the formalities of the Premier League's traditional pre-match handshake.
Sadly, Suarez added fuel to a poisonous Old Trafford atmosphere by refusing to acknowledge Evra's outstretched hand as they passed moments before kick-off.
In the confusion - and you can add awkwardness, anger and embarrassment to that - Evra tried to grab Suarez's arm and Rio Ferdinand subsequently ignored the hand proffered by the Uruguayan.
So much for moving on.
Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez failed to put their row behind them
It set the tone for an ill-tempered game viewed around the world, won by Manchester United but not one that will be used to endorse much that is good about the Premier League product.
If the intention was to draw a line under this affair, Suarez's actions torpedoed it and Liverpool were once again left to deal with the fall-out.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who has kept lid on his feelings for almost this entire business, let it all burst out as he verbally lacerated Suarez: "For a club with their history I would get rid of him, I really would. He is a disgrace to Liverpool Football Club. That player should not be allowed to play for Liverpool again."
The counter-argument, which we did not hear from Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish as he declined to attend the post-match written media conference, may be that it would suit Ferguson's purposes nicely for a player of Suarez's talent to disappear from Anfield.
And Ferguson may not have appreciated such strong advice had it come from Liverpool when Eric Cantona launched himself into the crowd kung fu-style at Selhurst Park in 1995.
This is by the by of course, but there is no doubt Liverpool do have issues to settle with Suarez, whether in the coming weeks or at the end of the season.
Dalglish pleaded ignorance to Suarez's snub for Evra but it may have come as quite a surprise to him given his previous words.
In the lead-up to United's 2-1 win he said: "People are already speculating on the pre-match ceremony. But from Luis's point of view, we have spoken to him and I know he will shake the hand of Patrice Evra and the other Manchester United players before the game."
Now clearly something went wrong here. If this was Suarez's plan, he obviously diverted dramatically and damagingly away from it. In the process he undermined his manager.
If he did tell Liverpool he would shake hands with Evra, then failed to do so, even Dalglish - who as recently as Monday insisted he should never have served a suspension - may have words to say to Suarez.
And how will Liverpool's American owners - still silent on the other side of the Atlantic - feel about Suarez once again acting in a manner that has caused their club to be portrayed in an unflattering light?
A sound theory expressed by many, and agreed with here, is that if Liverpool and Dalglish knew Suarez was going to reject Evra's hand so publicly, they might have asked for the pre-match handshake to be ditched. That was what happened when Chelsea's John Terry met QPR's Anton Ferdinand in the FA Cup last month, and would have avoided the embarrassment and criticism that had already started to descend on Liverpool and Suarez in the hours after the game.
The worth of the pre-match handshake is another debate. Here, however, it resulted in the extension of recriminations between England's two most successful clubs, with Suarez at the centre.
Suarez also made a contribution to an acrimonious end to the first half by launching into protests following what appeared to be a legal challenge by Ferdinand before lashing the ball away in frustration when referee Phil Dowd sounded the half-time whistle. That was the signal for unedifying scenes in the tunnel.
In a sensational departure, a football match broke out early in the second half with two goals from Wayne Rooney giving United control, Suarez himself setting up a tense finish by pulling a goal back.
For balance, Evra then unwisely did an impromptu triumphant sprint around Old Trafford ending, not entirely coincidentally it appeared, very close to a visibly downcast Suarez. Cue more angry confrontations and condemnation for his own player from Ferguson.
Evra had claimed the moral high ground after Suarez's rejection of his conciliatory gesture but he conceded some of it back with his behaviour at the end.
Ferguson's suggestion that Liverpool should sell Suarez is highly unlikely to be acted upon by Dalglish, especially as those around him - the utterly anonymous Stewart Downing in particular - posed no threat.
Suarez, however, is a walking story and not all of them good - whether it is being banned for biting in the Netherlands, suspended in England for racially abusing Evra, then refusing his handshake, or simply for a mercurial talent that is heavily laced with maverick tendencies.
He seems content enough for now at Liverpool but it is inevitable his combustible temperament will make him a target for opposition crowds, although not on the scale of what he experienced at Old Trafford.
Will this force him to consider his future elsewhere? Or, if he fails to curb this fatal attraction to controversy, will Liverpool actually be forced to ponder whether he is worth the trouble?
It will require delicate management from Dalglish, who has treated Suarez with something approaching worship since he arrived at Anfield just over a year ago.
The easiest thing for Suarez to do would have been to shake Evra's hand and move on. He simply moved on.
Was there any solace on Saturday, other than that afforded to Manchester United in victory? Maybe there was.
That is that these two clubs do not meet again this season. Imagine if Dirk Kuyt had not scored the late winner in the FA Cup at Anfield and it was all back to Old Trafford this week for a replay in the current incendiary atmosphere?
The same romantics who hoped this game might at least place an end to the ill feeling in sight might just hope time will prove some sort of healer. In the aftermath of Old Trafford on Saturday, not many were holding their breath.